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(en) UK, Libertarian Struggle' July/Aug 1975 - AWA: Where We Go From Here by R. Williams A pro-platformist text from Britain's 'Anarchist Workers Association' of the 1970s.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 27 Nov 2003 14:12:09 +0100 (CET)

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In 1926, a group of exiled Russian anarchists published 'The
Organizational Platform of Libertarian Communists'. It was born out of
their tragic experiences during the Russian Revolution - the spring of
workers' and peasants' self-management and its bloody replacement
by the winter of famine and buearucratic Party dictatorship.
It was the determined hope of Makhno, Arshinov et al, that such a
disaster should not reoccur. To this end the collectively wrote what
became known as 'The Platform'. It draws on the lessons of the
Russian anarchist movement - its failures to build up a working class
presense sizable and effective enough to counteract the tendency of
the Bolsheviks and other political groups to substitute themselves for
the working class. It contains a rough program of organizational tasks
for anarchists - in short, how we can be effective.


Since shortly after its publication, however, the Platform has been
buried under the more glamorous revolutionary textbooks. It's authors,
for the pains, were labelled 'Anarcho-Bolsheviks' (so a new political
term was invented!) by some of the more celebrated anarchist
personalities such as Alexander Berkman and Errico Malatesta.

This was because the authors and sympathizers of the Platform
pinpointed the failure of the Russian anarchist movement in its
disorganization, lack of national coordination, and thus theoretical and
practical confusion. In other words - ineffectiveness.

To remedy this, the Platformists proposed a formal organization, a
'General Union of Anarchists'. To be effective, yet still run in a
anti-authoritarian way, it would stick to several strict principles.


There should be agreement among members on theory, which
"represents the force which directs the activity of persons and
organizations along a determined path towards a determined goal"
[p.15]. In the same way, tactics used by separate members and groups
within the organization should be uniform - a common tactical line.

The Platformists rightly recognized that the absense of this leads to
lots of diverse people saying different things, yet using the same label
to describe themselves. This leads to a lot of argument, no agreement,
and no united or continuous activity.

This has been the sad history of the post-war British anarchist
movement. It was to put an end to this mess that AWA (then ORA)
was formed, though we obviously still recognize the need for healthy
internal debate about theory and tactics.


Moreover, the principle of collective responsibility was demanded by
the need to be effective. Each individual was to be accountable to
everyone else, thus guarding against the possibility of someone doing
something irresponsible (e.g. endangering other comrades, or giving
the wrong impression of the organization to workers) without being
answerable for such an action.


Berkman, Goldman, and others found the concept [of collective
responsibility] foreign to their over-individualistic taste. It meant that
everyone being as far as possible equal inside the organization, the
absense of political 'stars'.

They said that having an 'executive committee' (proposed by the
Platform) would be using authoritarian methods, which would
ultimately result in an exploitive state-capitalist society like Stalinist

They ignored the inclusion of another fundamental organizational
principle accepted in the pamphlet - federalism. "Anarchism has
always denied centralized organization... [which] relies on the
dimunation of the critical spirit, initiative and independence of each
individual and on the blind submission of the masses to the center"

It does not so much matter what an elected body is called, as what its
powers are, and whether the membership of an organization, factory or
neighborhood council has direct control over it. This is what the
Platform's critics did not seem to understand.

It is noteworthy that the pamphlet's writers were workers. Arshinov,
for instance, was a metal worker. Only the reactions of the
'celebrated' anarchists are recorded in history books, not those of
rank-and-file libertarians who knew what it was really like to struggle
daily against capitalism at the workplace and at home.

The Platform itself was neglected for years after the deaths of
Makhno and the other authors, until our French comrades reprinted it
in 1972.


During the arguments about it [The Platform] in 1926, most of the
pamphlet was in fact ignored. The first two sections of it, as well as
on organization, are useful reading for people generally unfamiliar with

They deal with the nature of capitalism, the State, and class struggle.
What sort of general action is needed to smash capitalism is outlined,
as are the problems of the actual creation of libertarian communism -
the realization of the principle "from each according to ability, to each
according to need".

None of this can be divorced from the methods we use now to achieve
that goal - a society based on need, not profit (or the maintenance of a
ruling bureaucracy as in Russia or China).


We do not treat the Platform as gospel truth. It's language often bears
the dated mark of the 1920s; and it needs to be developed, expanded,
and tested in action. AWA is now striving to do exactly that. But this
pamphlet is well worth reading for those who want to grasp the main
principles of organizational revolutionary anarchism.

The full names of some of its authors may now be forgotten, but the
struggle to which they dedicated their lives continues, and what they
had to say still has relevance for us all.


This essay, along with other material from the AWA/ORA, was
contributed to NEFAC by comrades from the Workers Solidarity
Alliance (http://www.workersolidarity.org) from their archives.

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